Are We Correcting The Humanity Out of Our Creative Voice?

Technology scrapes off imperfections, removes mistakes, and conceals blemishes. It can add or remove elements in a photograph, pitch correct music, and give the impression that someone was (or wasn’t) there.

We face philosophical questions about our relationship with truth, honesty, and integrity in art. But these aren’t limited to the “creative” space. They have implications for all of us.

The tools helping us improve can also eliminate differences and cause us to conform to standards that leave creative output compressed to lines and squeezed into boxes. We might ask how much of our humanity we are willing to “perfect” out of existence.

When we have access to tools that cover blemishes and make us sound better, it’s tempting to use them. Why would we choose not to? Why would we do anything else if we can avoid uncertainty, vulnerability, and imperfection?

From my experience making music, I know that when I lose confidence in my creative sound, I don’t fight as hard to keep it in the mix. I welcome the person who comes along with a tool to help me sound “professional,” “proper,” and “just like everybody else.” I tend to grimace when I hear too much of myself. But the uniqueness of my creative voice is intrinsically woven through those parts of me I want to conceal, hide, and iron out.

An effective producer gently amplifies rather than eradicates the unique aspects of our creativity, supporting us in becoming more confident in our humanity.

The Department of Pitch Corrections

Fil Henley produces videos, responding to requests to analyse music from live performances, online videos, and TV broadcasts. He isolates vocals and runs them through monitoring software to assess whether pitch correction has been applied.

His work raises some interesting questions about authenticity, integrity, and the essence of creative voice.

The issue isn’t necessarily the use of pitch correction per se. It’s what these tools and techniques do to our perception of possibilities. At its worst, pitch correction is used to deceive viewers and listeners into believing something untrue.

In one video, I REALLY don’t know WHAT to think about music anymore!?! Fil looks at a trend where singers film themselves singing at home. The simple aesthetic gives the impression of a relaxed, “just hopping on to sing a song”, impromptu, one-take performance. When they go viral, the captions for these videos focus on how perfect the vocal performance is. But as Fil points out, the most famous purveyors of the trend use perception management techniques so that the audience believes they are watching a live performance when the singer mimes to a pre-produced recording with pitch-corrected vocals.

The Line Between Illusion and Deception

In this sense, it’s not the technology itself that’s a problem. Instead, it’s how the results of using these tools are packaged and sold and whether or not audiences are aware of the illusion. This illusion matters when we are being led to believe that what we hear accurately represents the underlying performance.

When we see magicians perform tricks, we know they are not defying the laws of nature with their magic. Showmanship, sleight of hand, and consensual deception contribute to the entertainment. But that is also the essence of the art form—to sow that seed in the mind of the audience—”Whoa! How on Earth did they do that? I think this person actually IS a wizard!”

We might then ask ourselves how we want to approach and engage with art:

  1. As entertainment where we passively consume what we’re being fed (the artist as performer, putting on a show for the audience to observe – where process matters less than product)
  2. As participation, where we are an active part of the creative act (the artist as a facilitator, inviting the audience into an exploration of what it means to be human – where the how matters just as much as the what)

There is space for technology like pitch correction. It works as a creative tool, a choice, and is applied to support our work. It can help us “find the music” in many things, fix mistakes, and develop fascinating new sound palettes.

Art developed by AI can help us think more deeply about what it means to be human. But only if it’s not being used to replace what it means to be human or to make us believe it’s a direct primary expression made by our hands (and voices).

Just Because You Can, It Doesn’t Mean You Must

When our judgement of “good vocals” is how accurate they are to the lines, we potentially sacrifice elements that make a human voice truly compelling and attractive: the character, the expression, the tone, and the natural imperfections that arise from a human being. When we over-perfect ourselves, we lose our humanity. We iron out emotion, vulnerability, fragility, and the beauty that teeters on the ledge between holding it together and things falling apart.

When we strive for perfection, we compress our voices into homogeneous sameness. But life only flourishes when we embrace the blemishes. A community thrives through a celebration of our differences, not a moulding of sameness. And it’s when we allow, enjoy, encourage, and celebrate our differences the creative human spirit flies.

Progress Towards Utopian Blandness

Progress isn’t the pursuit of perfection; it’s the invitation to what is alive, needed, and present from moment to moment. For life to truly grow, we must invite all aspects of ourselves rather than ironing them out. Life becomes dull and meaningless when we become mechanically bland, robotic, productivity-focused creatures without authentically weird tonal sounds, odd quirks, and funny ways of expressing ourselves.

We might want to conceal, tamp down, and hide those vulnerable parts that make us feel self-conscious. However, those aspects of who we are sit at the core of our unique creative sound.

If we lack confidence or are a little unsure of ourselves, it won’t take much to convince us of the benefits of proverbial (or literal) pitch correction. But we need “producers” (friends, communities, families, professionals) who instil confidence. People who help build the confidence we have in OUR voice. Supporting us to sound like us. And we can be that for others, too.

Rather than helping people fit in and sound the same as everyone else, they encourage each other to connect with and express the bits that sound different. Embrace imperfection. Enjoy it. Encourage it. Celebrate it. Because of life’s blemished beauty, there are many spaces to explore inside, outside, and between us.

Meet Me At The Fireside

Whether you’re seeking to reach a specific goal, complete a project, or explore the whispers of your soul, you might be interested in my ​Fireside Program​. Together, we’ll navigate the noise so you can unearth your sound and express your voice.

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